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The Tiger Roars 

The Battle Plan Sheet
My friend Patrick Eibel is the King of Improvisation. He can randomly pluck figures out of his collection, scribble out an army list in five minutes or less, deploy his forces while simultaneously running his yap about football and scoping out a pretty girl walking by, and still win consistently. His ability to do this, to play so effortlessly and so well, with so very little forethought involved, really irritates the crap out of me. 

Why's that? Because I've known for quite some time that when it comes to playing 40K, I don't improvise very well. If I can draw up a plan ahead of time (and manage to stick to it during a game), I'll almost always win. But if I'm forced to "wing it," I'll often lose--usually very badly. For a perfect example of what I'm talking about, take a look at the ass-whippings I recently received using the "Stripey Phalanx of Death" against Tyranids and Iron Warriors.

I've also known for quite some time that my downfall is usually deployment. I can pick armies fairly well (though I have a penchant for "themed" armies long on style but short on effectiveness), and I have a halfway decent grasp of tactics (mostly thanks to my pals Paul Hill and Ken Lacy), but it's gotten to the point where I can usually tell if I'm going to win or lose a game before Turn 1 even begins.

Recently, the thought occurred to me that I should maximize my strengths by attempting to plan out, as much as possible, every facet of a 40K game that I could hope to control. My goal was to identify those facets and create a form that would allow me to plan ahead as much as possible, minimizing the need to improvise. 

Here's what I came up with: the Battle Plan Sheet (BPS).

Setting up is Half--or More--of the Battle
The decisions you and your opponent make before the game actually begins usually have a profound effect on the direction of the battle that follows. After some pondering, I decided that a successful pre-game plan should encompass three elements:

  • Strategy;
  • Deployment; and
  • Execution.
I came up with a form that I could fill out to help guide my thinking about these three elements. The BPS lists each element and breaks each down into various aspects. I left space on the form to jot down short notes--just a sentence or two--for each aspect. To illustrate what I'm talking about, I've re-created below my Battle Plan Sheet from Battle #5 of the Tooth and Claw Campaign.

The first part of the BPS is dedicated to strategy. The strategy element begins by listing the mission objective, then determining a mission strategy for success. The mission strategy will influence my deployment strategy, which guides my thinking on how to set-up (and will, hopefully, alleviate my weaknesses). The execution strategy is my basic plan of attack. 

In the example below, I was preparing to play my friend Pat in a "Fire Sweep" mission from Codex: Cityfight. As the battle was part of a campaign using the same army lists for each game, I knew ahead of time what I'd be up against. 

Battle Plan Sheet

Mission: Fire Sweep Combatants: Dark Eldar (me) vs. Space Wolves (Pat) Points: 1500 each
I. Strategy
A. Mission Objective Destroy enemy units, occupy buildings for bonus Victory Points (+100 for every building held)
B. Mission Strategy Aggressively assault portions of SW army with majority of mine. Wyches and Talos (the strongest h-t-h units) will lead the attack, with Raider Squads acting as back-up. 
C. Deployment Strategy Deploy Wyches, and Reavers to flank SW force. Haemonculus, Talos, and Raider Squad in center of board to facilitate arrival of reserves (4 Raider Squads). 
D. Execution Strategy Talos, Wyches, Reavers, move ASAP to engage SW. Haemonculus opens webway portal near center of board to allow reserve Raider Squads to reinforce h-t-h combat. One Raider Squad protects Haemonculus until he can open portal, Raider provides fire support.

As you can see, I tried to apply the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to minimize confusion during the game.

The second part of the BPS is dedicated to notes about deployment. While I can't always control the terrain set-up, at least I can think about how the mission parameters affect deployment and plan accordingly. Even if I don't know the mission ahead of time, I know what units I have in my army, so I can sketch out how they will assemble and work together. 

The first aspect to consider is in what sort of terrain do I prefer to deploy. The next thing to consider is whether I prefer to deploy first or second. And the final aspect is to decide in what order to deploy units, where they should be placed, and why they should be placed there. 

In the example below, the only things I knew ahead of time were the the table would to be 4' x 4' and that Pat would set up the terrain beforehand (as we have been doing during the campaign). "Fire Sweep" has rather stringent rules on deployment, so I had to bear those in mind when planning. 
II. Deployment
A. Preferred Terrain Cover to block LOS. Skimmers will be able to move across terrain at will.
B. Prefer to deploy 1st or 2nd?  Prefer to deploy first to claim center of board (see Deployment Strategy, above)
C. Unit Deployment 
(in order)
Unit Where deployed Justification
Concentration #1: Talos, Haem, RS#2 Center of board, @18" away from SW, in cover. RS#2 will be dismounted, surrounding Haemonculus Talos needs to be as close to SW as possible. Webway portal in center of board will facilitate Concentration #3 entering combat quickly. 
Concentration #2: Wyches, Reavers Center of board @18" away from SW. Wyches and Reavers need to engage in close combat ASAP. Coordinate attacks with Talos.
Concentration #3: Four Raider squads, Warp Beasts Off board. Will arrive through webway portal Mission deployment parameters do not permit deployment of all Raiders at start of game. Webway portal in center of board should decrease traveling distance and time so that Raiders and Warp Beasts can back up Talos or Wyches/Reavers, as the opportunity presents itself.

The third part of the BPS is dedicated to notes about executing the plan: you know, actually fighting the battle. At this phase, the only choices you seem to have left are whether you prefer to go first or second and whom to attack with what units. For each unit, I've determined a primary objective, a secondary objective (in case the primary objective is accomplished or must be abandoned), and a list of units that will be working with them to achieve their objectives. Thus, before the battle begins, each unit has its "marching orders" and its reinforcements. 

Though objectives are usually attacking and defeating enemy squads, they don't have to be. In the example below, you'll notice that my Haemonculus was tasked to 1) open a webway portal to allow reserves  to appear in the center of the board, and 2) to occupy a building at the end of the game and thus gain 100 bonus Victory Points. 
III. Execution
A. Prefer to go 1st or 2nd? First
B. Unit Execution
Unit Primary Objective Secondary Objective Coordinating Units
Talos Assault nearest SW unit Assault next closest SW units Wyches, Reavers. Raider from RS #2 may provide support fire.
Haemonculus Open webway portal Occupy building for bonus VP Raider Squad #2
Raider Squad #2 Shield Haemonculus from fire Occupy building for bonus VP Haemonculus
Raider #2 Provide fire support to Talos Fire on Land Speeders, Whirlwind, Long Fangs, Dreadnought, Terminators Talos, Wyches, Reavers
Wyches Assault nearest SW unit Assault next closest SW units Reavers, Talos, Wyches' Raider
Wyches' Raider Deliver Wyches to target Fire on Land Speeders, Whirlwind, Long Fangs, Dreadnought, Terminators Raider #2, Wyches
Reavers Accompany Wyches and Talos Attack Land Speeders, Whirlwind, Long Fangs Talos, Wyches, Raider #2
Warp Beasts Counterattack SW units Assault Grey Hunters and/or Long Fangs; occupy building for bonus VP Raider Squad #2
Raider Squads 1, 3-5 Back up Wyches and Talos Occupy buildings for bonus VP Talos, Wyches, Reavers
Raiders 1, 3-5 Deliver Raider Squads to targets Fire on Land Speeders, Whirlwind, Long Fangs, Dreadnought, Terminators Each other

"No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy"
While a plan is all well and good, it must be viewed as a guide, not as the rule of law. A game of 40K has so many variables--terrain set up, your opponent's army and skill, each dice roll made--that at some point during the game, the plan must be spontaneously altered to adjust to changing circumstances. Rigidly following a plan in the face of events the plan didn't anticipate can only spell disaster. 

Also bear in mind that some games will not allow the level of pre-planning that I demonstrated here. Before a tournament, you probably won't know what foes you'll face, what units their armies will have, or even what missions you'll play. In cases like this, you'll need to develop very vague, flexible battle plans, such as: "The primary objective for Tactical Squad A is to shoot enemy Fast Attack units." 

No, just because you have an BPS written out before the game doesn't mean you'll win. But it's allowed me to improve my play. With the Battle Plan Sheet, I'm more confident, I deploy faster, and I can make better decisions when I'm forced to improvise: because I've planned out as much as I could beforehand, I can relax and concentrate on finding a solution to the problem at hand. The BPS isn't a "silver bullet," and I'm certain I will revise it over time, but so far, I've been very pleased with it.

If you'd like to give the Battle Plan Sheet a try, you can download a Word version of it here. I hope it works as well for you as it does for me. 

Related Pages
Master-crafted 40K: Gaming advice from the experts

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© copyright Kenton Kilgore, March 2003 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle